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Lectures (Part 1)

Simultaneous translation available

13 May 2011 - 9:30

Auditorium 2

Free admission

With Patrick Chabal, “Western Rationality after Postcolonialism”, Kole Omotoso, "The Endangering Ambiguity Of The Wabenzi Tribe: Next Futures Africa" and Yudhishthir Raj Isar, com a "Cultural Policy: confronting a hydra".

Patrick Chabal; copyright: Catarina Botelho

Patrick Chabal (France)

“Western Rationality after Postcolonialism”

The future of the West is now inextricably linked to that of the non-West.  The environmental issues the world faces as well as the inexorable rise of the economic power of China and other Asian countries make it impossible for the West to consider ‘what comes next’ in the same ways as before.  But the challenge is far deeper than the present debate on the ‘decline of the West’ suggests.  My lecture will focus on how the postcolonial challenge to the West’s outlook on the world as well as the influence of citizens of non-Western origins living now in the West have combined to expose the limits of what I call Western rationality – by which I mean the theories we use to understand and act upon the world.  The growing failure of Western social thought to explain plausibly and to address successfully some of its key domestic social and economic issues, and some of the crucial contemporary tests of international politics, has laid bare the inadequacies of the Western social sciences as they have developed in the centuries since the Enlightenment.  What the West needs, but has not accepted yet, is not more and better theory but a new way of thinking. 

Patrick Chabal

Patrick Chabal is French and was educated in France, the USA and Britain.  He has worked professionally in the UK as a Research Fellow in Cambridge, where he got his PhD in political science, and then as a university academic.  He is currently Professor in the Department of History at King’s College London.  He has been a Visiting Professor in Italy, France, Switzerland, India, Portugal, Venezuela and South Africa.  He is engaged in a long-term project combining the study of culture in comparative politics and an enquiry into the theory of the social sciences. He is completing the writing of his next book, The End of Conceit: Western rationality after postcolonialism to be published in 2012. His other books include: Africa: the politics of suffering and smiling (2009); Angola: the weight of history (2008); Culture Troubles: politics and the interpretation of meaning (2006); A History of Postcolonial Lusophone Africa (2002); Africa Works: disorder as political instrument (1999); The Postcolonial Literature of Lusophone Africa (1996); Power in Africa (1992 & 1994);; Vozes Moçambicanas: literatura e nacionalidade (1994) and Amílcar Cabral (1983 & 2002) – a number of which have been translated into other European languages.


Kole Omotoso (Nigeria)


Decolonisation has been the defining commencement of modern industrial society be it in terms of those who fought for it or those who defended colonisation. In North America, in South America, in Asia and in Africa the decolonized and the decolonizers in Europe and South East Asia were given a new chance to reshape the world. The United States of America emerged in North America; Japan surged forth in South East Asia bringing with itself the places which it previously occupied, colonized and exploited. South America is still struggling to emerge. North Africa and the Middle East saw the future as a return to the past of the glories of Islam. The Arabs were great when Islam was great. Islam must be great again for the Arabs to regain their greatness. In Africa South of the Sahara, including Haiti, the future was a total rejection of their past of enslavement, colonization and resource exploitation by Europe and North America. At the national level Haiti 1804, Nigeria 1960, South Africa 1994 and South Sudan 2011 these states enacted laws which combated that past instead of moving them into the future. It is as if the experience of enslavement, colonization and resource plunder is the totality of their history. Anything coming from Europe and North America is rejected almost out of hand. But at the personal level there is the ambiguity of consumerism without even the pretence of import substitution. The cultural expression has been one of a period of anomy following decolonization. The novels such as Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease, Ayi Kwi Armah’s The BEautyful Ones are Not Yet Born, Ama Ata Aidoo’s No Sweetness Here and Wole Soyinka’s Season of Anomy say it all. There is also Nkem Nwankwo’s My Mercedes is Bigger than Yours. The cultural issues which these novels deal with of Resentment, Self-Esteem and Revenge cannot be resolved through suicide or emigration of the African individual to Europe and North America. Europe and North America must partner the African to be less resentful, to recover self esteem by understanding that enslavement, colonization and resource plunder is not the totality of the African experience and that the best is in the future.  (The WaBenzi tribe is the modern African Mercedes owning class!)

Born in Akure South-West Nigeria in 1943 and educated in Nigeria at Oyemekun Grammar School Akure and King’s College Lagos and at the University of Ibadan where he studied Arabic and French for a first degree before going to the University of Edinburgh where he obtained his doctorate degree working on contemporary Arabic theatre and cinema. He taught until 2003 at Stellenbosch University (África do Sul) when he left to concentrate on his research group Africa Diaspora Research. His publications include The Combat (1972 and 2005 – Penguin Modern Classics); Just Before Dawn (1988) Achebe or Soyinka: a study in contrasts(1996 and 2010). A memoir Witness to Possibilities in to be published in South Africa in September 2011 and in Nigeria in July 2011.


Yudhishthir Raj Isar (France)

‘Cultural Policy’:  confronting a hydra

The term ‘cultural policy’ has become a global script but, like practically all words related to the contemporary concept of ‘culture’, ‘cultural policy’ is understood in many different ways.  These notions are often deployed in connection with other leading contemporary tropes, such as ‘identity’, ‘democracy’ or ‘rights’.  As such, they constitute bodies of knowledge and practice that are shot through with tensions and paradoxes and whose ordering may obscure as much as they reveal.  Some of these issues will be explored in an international and cross-cultural perspective.   

Yudhishthir Raj Isar is an independent cultural analyst, advisor and public speaker.  He is Professor of Cultural Policy Studies at The American University of Paris, Maître de Conférence at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po) and a visiting professor/scholar at other universities.  He is the founding co-editor of the Cultures and Globalization Series.   President of Culture Action Europe, 2004-2008.    Trustee of and/or advisor to cultural organizations in Europe, North America and Asia; consultant to private foundations, intergovernmental organizations and the European Commission.    Earlier, at UNESCO, he was an international broker of ideas for three decades, serving notably as Executive Secretary of the World Commission on Culture and Development and Director of the International Fund for the Promotion of Culture.